Ministerial Working Group on Gypsy/Travellers minutes: December 2022

Minutes of the meeting held on the 14 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Equalities and Older People (Chair)
  • Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People
  • Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Social Security and Local Government
  • Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work
  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women's Health and Sport
  • Elena Whitham MSP, Minister for Community Safety
  • James McNulty, Unit Head Self Directed Support Improvement from the SDS, Directorate for Social Care and National Care Service Development, Scottish Government
  • David Ferguson, Senior Policy Officer, Directorate for Learning, Scottish Government
  • Councillor Maureen Chalmers, Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Dominique Barr, Policy and Participation Officer, COSLA


  • Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care
  • Tom Arthur MSP, Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth

Guest speakers – third sector

  • Charise Daly, Community Health Manager, Minority Ethnic Carers of Older People Project (MECOPP)
  • Suzanne Munday, Associate, MECOPP

Items and actions

Welcome and update on the Gypsy/Traveller action plan

Ms McKelvie updated the group on our current focus of work on the cost of living crises and ongoing long term actions such as improving housing, health and education outcomes and what we plan to do next.

Ms McKelvie outlined that the Gypsy/Traveller action plan will be refreshed in the coming weeks to reflect current and emerging priorities like the cost of living with a view to developing a new plan in summer 2023. This will allow us time to properly consider what a future phase of work should look like and be clearer what the Interim Governance Group on Anti Racist Infrastructure seek to propose in their recommendations due to be delivered in May 2023 and how the work on Gypsy/Travellers can benefit from these set of recommendations.

Ms McKelvie requested that ministers ensure officials engage with the Race Equality Team in refining our existing action plan and supporting the development of our next phase of work.

Update from COSLA

Councillor Chalmers updated the group on what the current priorities are for COSLA including taking forward the work negotiated stopping and undertaking the research with the community on a pilot project, local leaders network – ensuring that we raise awareness of the needs of the community with local representatives and that we reinvigorate the network and learning from the work carried out on improving accommodation as part of the £2m site improvement fund.

Councillor Chalmers also supported the Minister’s view of refining the plan and developing the next phase of work in time for summer 2023.

Councillor Chalmers also emphasised the need to listen to the community and ensure they are involved as much as possible.

Ms McKelvie reiterated that no decisions have been made yet as to what the next phase of work will look like. However there will likely be key themes such as Covid recovery and cost of living pressures.

Update on the community health workers project

Charise Daly provided an update on the community health workers project and talked about the positives of this work.

Charise Daly explained that there is a link between having good accommodation and good health and that there are structural challenges to addressing health issues which do not solely rest with healthcare services but that community health workers have been able to address barriers and issues beyond healthcare that have improved outcomes overall.

Charise Daly mentioned some of the barriers to accessing healthcare including anxiety, not having access to culturally appropriate information, digital exclusion which makes it difficult to access services.

The health workers have worked across 5 health boards – NHS Forth Valley, NHS Highland, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Tayside, NHS Argyll and Bute and have seen positive health outcomes like reduced illness.

There is also an element of improving health education and literacy of the community on sensitive but important subjects like contraception and suicide awareness and addressing myths about mental health.

Other positives include knowing about how to register with health services and developing skills like Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training which are vital skills given some sites are quite remote.

Ms Todd and Ms McKelvie recorded their thanks to the project team recognising the many achievements and improved outcomes.

Ms Todd explained that she was sympathetic to supporting the project next year but iterated that it should be a joint effort between various health boards given the small amount of funding required for each health board.

Ms Todd was clear that there is a need for this service given the lower expectance compared to the general population, lack of trust with statutory services and poorer health outcomes of the community and we want to build on the success of this project.

Ms Todd was also clear that it is important the community are taking part in the national screening programmes and that the positive outcomes coming out of this project often go far beyond just healthcare.

Ms Todd explained that officials are exploring all funding options and that she was reasonably confident that a solution could be found.  Ms McKelvie acknowledged the challenging budget position all round.

Update on the self directed support 

In the Mr Stewart’s absence, James McNulty gave an update on the work being done to improve self directed support (SDS) access for the community. He explained that we know that the community’s experiences and lack of culturally sensitive approaches is not great.

The unit has updated statuary guidance for local authorities (LAs) which now signposts a helpful toolkit prepared by MECOPP which prompts councils to be proactive and aware of the cultural needs of the community. James McNulty said that his unit are due to confirm funding for MECOPP to support the provision of outreach work and training.

There is a forthcoming SDS improvement plan which MECOPP has been involved in.

The social care workforce team are working to improve staffing conditions by removing the financial costs of requiring Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVGs).

Attendees emphasised the need to also look at improving recruitment and encouraging community members to taking up SDS provision.

Update on education research

Ms Haughey updated the group on the ongoing research into education experiences. Ms Haughey outlined that we commissioned and are funding the Scottish Traveller Education Programme (STEP) to undertake research which will hear directly from families and young people. It will be used to inform local and national approaches and emphasise that there are opportunities to succeed.

Research is set to conclude in spring next year and the Working Group will be updated. David Ferguson explained that the research was on track and 15 out of the 20 participants have confirmed their participation in January and February.

Ms McKelvie was keen to explore this research at a future meeting.

Other issues of concern and any other business

Points raised by ministers or stakeholders on key issues affecting (fuel poverty, social security, business support and the consultation on the planning definition of Gypsy/Travellers) and any other business.

Mr Lochhead drew attention to the recently published fair work action and anti-racist action plan. He also drew reference to the anti-racist employment strategy which sets out a toolkit for employers to use to be much more diverse and inclusive. Ms McKelvie said we will share this with community.

Mr Macpherson emphasised a large number of additional support including the fuel insecurity fund.

Ms McKelvie emphasised that people should apply to the UK Government’s pension credit by 18th December.

Councillor Chalmers spoke on the issue of £400 energy payment. It is understood that the UK Government are running a pilot with Glasgow picked as the only Scottish council. The pilot will run from January to March. Some councils are finding ways to get money out as soon as possible. Councillor Chalmers is keen to ensure best practice is shared with other councils about how the community receive this payment that they are entitled to. It was noted there are no sites in Glasgow and to be used as a pilot is disgraceful.

Suzanne Munday emphasises that we are dealing with people becoming ill and destitute daily and are very worried. They are trying to cover costs for vulnerable people. They are happy to furnish ministers with real life examples demonstrating the need for this payment to be given quicker.

Ms Whitham drew attention to the work being done by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the risk to life around cost of living as people will be using other means of fuel which could be more risky. Ms Whitham emphasised her passion in this area and is keen to see access to justice for the community, a key responsibility in her new role as well as be involved through other community safety aspects.

Dominique Barr informed the group that they are liaising with MECOPP to understand the different approaches councils are utilising over the festive period to distribute energy cards due to local authority staff going on holiday meaning that nobody is on site to purchase these cards from.  Councillor Chalmers emphasised the importance of checking in with councils to find out their arrangements. There are only a handful of councils who have sites so this should be a fairly swift task.


Ms McKelvie thanked everyone for attending the meeting and for their contributions.

Back to top